By Byron Mutingwende and Anyway Yotamu
The Harare Wetlands Trust (HWT) has called on government to set aside funds to ensure the provision of clean, safe water for the capital city through the preservation of healthy wetlands.
The call comes after finance and economic development minister, Mthuli Ncube delivered his 2020 budget statement on Thursday where the trust insisted that it is common knowledge that wetlands serve as primary water sources for Harare hence the need for concerted efforts to protect them from plunder.
Of late, Harare wetlands have been under serious threat due to construction projects and urban agriculture.
Moved by this, HWT has made concerted efforts to save Harare’s wetlands from further destruction and said it was elated by the declaration by the Minister of State for Harare Province, Honourable Oliver Chidawu to the effect that government needs to move a gear up in protecting the water sources.
“HWT notes pronouncements by the Minister of Finance, Honorable Mthuli Ncube, in his 2020 national budget presentation; to the effect that government was committed to restoring basic water and sanitation services through maintenance, rehabilitation and upgrading of infrastructure. Honorable Ncube also highlighted that harnessing of water and construction of dams, weirs, borehole rehabilitation and drilling will form part of efforts to ensure water supply.
“In the case of Harare, we would however like to highlight that preserving wetlands in their natural state should also be at the core of efforts to ensure water provision in Harare,” HWT said in a statement.
Wetlands serve as primary sources of water for Harare and their continued destruction will worsen the already dire situation in the capital. According to the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) the continued destruction of wetlands in Harare has led to the water table drastically falling down.
Meanwhile, Minister Chidawu recently led stakeholders on a tour of wetlands following the continued plunder of wetlands, which are important water sources for Harare.
Stakeholders present during the tour visited Warren Park, Budiriro and Mabelreign areas as well as the wetland located near Long Cheng Plaza in Belvedere.
Wetlands are under continued threat mainly due to urban agriculture and construction projects.
The Harare Wetlands Trust submitted to the Minister that there were a lot of grey areas concerning the issuance of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) certificates.
HWT said this had paved way for the continued invasion of wetlands hence the need to create ‘a one stop shop’ for the issuance of EIA certificates.
HWT also submitted that the Trust was keen to bring more evidence of wetlands invasion in Harare and that a tour of these areas would be critical.
Minister Chidawu welcomed HWT’s submissions and bemoaned the fact that the battle to save wetlands has been raging for a number of years but the most inhibiting factor was flagrant violation of the law as well as abuse of political power.
He agreed with HWT’s position that there is an urgent need to save wetlands adding that failure to save the important water sources will result in Harare running dry.
Minister Chidawu also highlighted that urban agriculture was a serious threat to wetlands’ survival and vowed to take action against urban farmers cultivating on wetlands.
It came out during the tour that violation of the law, abuse of power, corruption and urban agriculture were the major factors behind wetlands destruction.
Minister Chidawu said: “In Harare Metropolitan Province the government, environmental groups and residents have for some time been running a seemingly unending battle to save wetlands from destruction due to illegal settlements.
“Individuals have invaded our wetlands with impunity, constructing residential properties, commercial facilities such as shopping malls and other structures. It is quite disheartening to note that our wetlands which are vital for human survival because of their countless benefits or ecosystem services have fallen victim to these individuals who have not taken cognisance of the fact that these same wetlands are essential for the provision of ground water, flood control, climate change mitigation, food protection and biodiversity.”
He said that in Harare alone, there are 30 wetlands under the threat of illegal settlements. The Minister urged citizens to be law abiding citizens and promised to leave no stone unturned so as to to bring back sanity by making sure that all illegal settlements on vital wetlands are removed.
“In this regard I will order the Environmental Management Agency, the Harare City Council and law enforcement agents to work out a programme to weed out all the identified illegal settlements on our wetlands,” he added